A little piece on England

A little piece on England

A couple of years ago, I wrote something for a magazine about how footballers seemed to be paralysed by some sort of apathetic stasis when it came to having an opinion on, well, anything.

For the modern day player, I opined, standing up for a movement or issue was to be avoided like a cruciate knee ligament injury. Anything that could provoke outrage or interest seemed to be off limits.

My prose did not age well.

 

 

Since then, Raheem Sterling has done more for racial equality than any politician could ever dream of, Marcus Rashford has fed thousands of hungry children and in the process repeatedly shamed a shameful government, and professional football has collectively taken the knee in the fight against racism.

Refreshingly, it seems that many of this new breed of progressive, socially aware footballers are English - and plenty of them are internationals too, which has made the Three Lions’ journey to the Euros semi-finals even more enjoyable.

It’s great when nice guys prosper – and this England team is full of them. And I’m not just talking about superstars using their status for the greater good, either – the squad must be the most incredibly likeable bunch to wear the shirt in, well, forever.

 

 

For a start, they look like they're actually enjoying it. They're having fun, just like the fans are, and revelling in the moment instead of being overburdened by the pressure of representing their country. What a contrast to the team that toiled in South Africa in 2010 or at the Euros in 2012.

Kalvin Phillips is a case in point. A revelation on the pitch, he always plays with a smile on his face. He's having the time of his life and it shows.

Declan Rice, too. And Jack Grealish. Then there's Luke Shaw, and Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker. The list goes on and on.

 

 

The squad is led by a manager who is, literally, the pride of the nation right now - a thoroughly decent man doing a thorough brilliant job. If you haven't read his outstanding piece in the Players' Tribune, make it your priority today.

For those old enough to remember Italia '90, there are similarities with the happy-go-lucky, care-free aura that surrounded Sir Bobby's England squad 31 years ago.

But Southgate's class of 2021 are even more special – a 26-man representation of the very best of England.

And in these turbulent times, how nice it is to be able to say that.

 

 

It's been a long time coming but, whatever happens on Wednesday night and beyond, we have a team to be truly proud of once again.

 

Words by Josh Warwick

 

 

 

 

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